Words: Matt Master
The Fiorano circuit has played a crucial role in Ferrari’s success on and off the track
A name synonymous both with speed and secrecy, steeped in history yet at the cutting-edge of Ferrari’s rapid and relentless evolution: La Pista di Fiorano.
Nestled on the edge of Maranello, this small and relatively inconspicuous three-kilometre circuit has achieved near-mythical status among the motoring cognoscenti. A place where some of the greatest road and race cars of the last half century have been honed through countless hours of high-speed testing.
Fiorano’s seeds were first sown back in the 1960s, when a perceptive Enzo Ferrari acquired a small parcel of agricultural land near the factory. Testing on the public road and at the nearby Modena Autodrome was becoming incompatible with the increasingly secretive nature of motorsport.
In 1972 ground was broken and a tight figure-of-eight circuit gradually emerged, close enough to the workshops that Formula One cars could be wheeled there.
Until his death in 1988, Enzo would watch his beloved F1 cars screaming past from within the old white-washed walls of his converted farmhouse, offset by trademark bright red front door and red timber shutters.
The surrounding buildings have evolved over the years from stabling to garages to hi-tech conference rooms, while the streets bear the names of the growing Ferrari family, with Via Nuvolari, Ascari and Gilles Villeneuve linking to perhaps the greatest dedication, Piazza Michael Schumacher.
The circuit has also moved with the times, now far more complex than its initial layout and size limitations would suggest. Its myriad slow and fast corners are specifically designed to ask questions of a chassis under braking, the breadth of an engine on exit, or its ability to maintain fuel and oil delivery amid high lateral forces.
In the 1990s, when technological advances began finding answers to these 20-year-old questions, a chicane was added, followed by a much faster bend at the end of the pit straight. In 2000, an irrigation system was installed that collects and stores rainwater, creating wet driving conditions at a moment’s notice.
This complex combination of wet/dry corners and omniscient telemetry allows Fiorano to simulate not only the varying demands of most circuits around the world, but also every extreme of real world driving. How quickly a new car loops Fiorano has become the acid test for fans and development drivers alike.
Today the fastest lap by a road car is held, perhaps unsurprisingly, by the LaFerrari, which posted an astonishing 1’20 in 2015, almost a second and a half quicker than the next fastest F12tdf.
But before testing restrictions brought F1’s time here to a close, it was Schumacher who claimed the outright Fiorano record. His F2004 crossed the line in just 0’55.999, a time almost certain to remain unchallenged.
Although Enzo would have bemoaned the absence of F1 cars howling through his backyard today, the relevance of Fiorano goes unchecked by external influence or the incredible in-house progress it facilitates.
Both hallowed part of Ferrari folklore and stepping stone to the future, Fiorano applies an invaluable scientific scrutiny fettled by 45 years of information gathering to wring out every ounce of ability from both its cars and its drivers.
The breakneck evolution carries on apace, and this glorious part of Ferrari’s history remains an integral part of its rapid onward journey.